Sid is my old man. Now that he has retired to the Costa del Sol, we all call him El Sid. Veronica is Dad's latest leg-over: sixty-two, Spanish, big hair, short skirt, big knockers, benign skin cancer. Likes being tied up, according to Dad. I just don't know what they see in him. It must be the fascination of the horrible. Anyway, we are on our way over to Little-Eyed Dave's seafood restaurant El Rabioso. Veronica and I have just met for the first time.
Inside the car there are three different perfumes competing for supremacy. My Adidas after-shave, Dad's "Eau de Colon" as he puts it, and Veronica's Attention s'il vous Plait. I've bunged Chris Rea's Road to Hell on the CD player.
"See my boy there," says Dad to Veronica, trying to set the romantic tone. "He's a whore of literature." Ever since I became a journalist, he has always introduced me to his friends like that. Probably something he read on the back of a matchbox. Actually I quite like it, and nod modestly. But Veronica's English doesn't extend to archaic euphemisms such as that one. Looking in the rear-view mirror I can see her pretty brown forehead furrowing with puzzlement.
"What is Whore?" she says.
Dad thinks for a second, and says: "You know. Whore!" then follows up by cleaning his teeth with an imaginary tooth-brush. Veronica remains unenlightened.
"Whore?" she says.
"Whore!" yells Dad, as if to say that if anyone ought to know the meaning of the word, she should.
I come to Veronica's aid.
Turning round and tapping myself vigorously in the chest, I say: "Me, prostitute."
"Ah! You are prostitute!" says Veronica, glad to be back in the picture, slightly surprised by the information, but wishing me well none the less.
"Prostitute of literature," I say, taking both hands off the wheel to scribble on my palm with an imaginary biro.
This is too much for Veronica, who shrugs a graceful, eloquent shrug of utter hopelessness and despair.
"You are a daft bint. What are you?" says Dad.
"What is bint?" says Veronica.
Little-Eyed Dave is glad to see us. "You nice, Jel?" he says as we walk in to El Rabioso.
Dad and Little-Eyed grew up together in north London. Whereas Dad went into the rag trade, Little-Eyed became an armed robber. He likes to give the impression that he reached the pinnacle of his chosen profession and worked with all the big boys. He likes to drop dark hints, for instance, that he had a hand in the Brinks-Mat bullion job. Fact is, Little- Eyed wouldn't know which end of a shotgun to saw off, says Dad. But there is no doubt that Little-Eyed is on first name terms with a few faces, whose Rolls-Royces can be seen parked outside his restaurant from time to time.
As we hang up our jackets, Dad introduces Little-Eyed to Veronica. "You nice babe?" says Little-Eyed, grasping her hand. When Veronica disappears to freshen up, Little-Eyed turns to Dad and says: "Sid, has that accident been reported?"
Little-Eyed Dave's wife Maureen is out at a feng shui workshop. So after the meal Little-Eyed takes us up to the flat for a game of putting the dog in the chandelier.
Little-Eyed and Maureen have got this chandelier in their living room. When it was first put in, it was the talk of Torremolinos. Maureen's beloved Jack Russell, Tonto, absolutely hates this chandelier. He hates it so much that when it's lit up they have to shut him in the kitchen otherwise he works himself into such a state of apoplexy he has fits. And then Maureen gets in such a state over the dog she nearly has fits. And then Little-Eyed says to Maureen that she loves that bloody dog more than she loves him, and they fall out over it.
So we troop upstairs, turned on the chandelier and while Veronica watches we take it in turns to hold the dog in the chandelier. We always do this if Maureen is out and we're a bit lit up ourselves. It sort of rounds off the evening. "Ooo, be careful, Sid," says Veronica, when it is Dad's go.